Olivia Dish

Mapping the Barbecue World-Fuller’s

In Barbecue, North Carolina, Restaurant on October 31, 2009 at 4:02 pm
Fullers bbq

Off I-95 in Lumberton, NC

I’ve been driving past the Fuller’s Barbecue exit on I-95 in Lumberton for twenty-some years.  Today I finally stopped.

fullers bbq exterior

Front porch at Fuller's

Why now? Well, first, I was hungry.  And second, I’d read a brief write-up about it in John T. Edge’s book Southern Belly.  If the cute, clever Mr. Edge liked it, then why wouldn’t I like it too?

Maybe John T. had better luck, better timing, or was even hungrier than I was.  I knew something was off when I didn’t smell any evidence of a wood fire on the premises.

Fullers bbq interior

Fuller's All You Can Eat

My hunch was right: no smell equals maybe you should get back in the car and keep going. I didn’t find much barbecue at all at Fuller’s.  I did find a whopping all you can eat food bar, with dozens of items in every Southern buffet category.

Somewhere between popcorn shrimp and chicken and dumplings was a narrow tin of chopped pork flecked with rubbery pork skin.  The meat didn’t taste smoky.  It didn’t even taste fresh.  In fact, it didn’t taste like much of anything.

fullers bbq all you can eat

All I could eat, and then some...

The southern-style vegetables were a little better. The flat green beans (or as my grandpa called them, pole beans) and cabbage had some flavor.  The fried chicken and the deviled crab were okay.  Fried shrimp, though, was bland.  My glasses were fogged over from the steam at the food bar.  I stopped trying to find something to rave about and moved on to dessert.

Lined up along the dessert table, you had a large assortment of the usual suspects—pies, cakes, banana pudding, and something that looked frighteningly like my dear Aunt M’s no-bake cheesecake.

fullers bbq desserts

Two of many desserts at Fuller's

I picked up a slim piece of the six-layer cake  with chocolate icing (or is that seven layers? see photo at left) and a wedge of the chocolate meringue pie (even if it did have an oreo cookie crust not a real one).  The cake tasted like one from a mix, and not a quality mix at that.  The pie surprised me—it was rich, not too sweet, pretty darned good.

Fuller’s Old Fashion BBQ all-you-can eat buffet is big and includes a salad bar too.  I guess if you like this kind of thing (and plenty do, my mother included) then you might find this one to be just fine.  But all I can eat is about one plate full, so there’s not much charm for me in the offer.  And when the sign says barbecue, I think they owe it to me to have some decent pork in the mix.

PS: I’m not the only traveler to have a less-than-thrilling Fuller experience, though there are some locals who say it’s worth giving it another try.

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